There is no one single best down jacket, and that’s a good thing because it means we have choices — there are many best down jackets. Everyone has different body types, does different sports, has different budgets, and needs different levels of insulation, breathability, and waterproofness. In fact, as we see it, there are 29 best down jackets that span three key categories.
This might sound daunting, but it’s not: If you understand the key elements that go into your own best down jacket decision, it’s pretty easy to find the best down jacket for you. Here is what you need to know to choose the best down jacket for 2018 and beyond, ranging from ultralight jackets to the warmest down coats.
Best Down Jacket: Two Types of Down Insulation
Down is basically the ultralight and ultra-fuzzy plumage from geese or ducks. It’s one of nature’s most amazing insulating materials — it’s lighter and better than any synthetic insulation. Down is measured by fill power, which ranges from 550-650 on the entry-level end to 850-900 or so on the high end. The fill power is a measurement for the fluffiness of the down — higher fill power means the down fibers can trap more air, which provides more insulation. Still, even 650 fill power down is very good compared to synthetics.
There is one major problem with even the best down jackets: If the down gets wet, its insulating properties plummet.
To combat this, down jacket manufacturers chemically treat the down with water-resistant coatings to create hydrophobic down. There are a few different brand names for the treatments, but the effect is similar. Hydrophobic down resists moisture in the form of rain, sweat, or water vapor produced by your own body. If you’re highly active, always error toward hydrophobic down.
If you plan to wear your down jacket in wet weather, for instance, you’ll want to layer it under a waterproof shell like a rain jacket or ski jacket. In fact, two light layers — a down jacket with a waterproof jacket over the top — combine to create a super warm system that’s great for snow sports and even backpacking in the mountains.
Best Down Jacket: Ultralight or Ultra Puffy?
Your major choice in finding your best down jacket is choosing to go with an ultralight down jacket, a lightweight down jacket, or a heavyweight down jacket. For our purposes, ultralight down jackets are technical marvels that use super thin fabrics and very light zippers to create a down jacket that can weigh just 9 ounces or less and/or have a combination of technical features. Lightweight down jackets use slightly heavier materials, might use more down fibers, and weigh around 12-16 ounces — you could call these midweight down jackets, but we don’t like to call these midweight jackets because they are still very light! Heavyweight down jackets are more like down coats or parkas. The shell material may or may not be more robust, but the down fill baffles will be larger and contain a lot more down — think very puffy. What about true mountaineering or expedition-class down jackets? These are highly specialized jackets. They’re usually only worth the cost if you’re going to climb a snow-covered mountain and put your life at risk.
Best Down Jacket: Fit
Down jackets are generally made for layering — they are cut so you can wear a base layer or t-shirt as well as a long-sleeve shirt underneath the down jacket. Sizing is usually pretty accurate, but if you’re a tall thin guy, you’ll want to pay close attention. Some brands and models provide more torso space than others. Average builds truly win out with down jackets. Men and women looking for more athletic cuts should carefully read the descriptions below, and if your best down jacket will be worn over just a t-shirt, you might want to size down for a slimmer fit.
There is one key feature you might appreciate — a draw cord at the bottom hem. When it gets cold, you can seal out drafts. Some down jackets don’t have them. For instance, the Eddie Bauer MicroTherm StormDown Jacket does not . . . but the cut is a bit more athletic, so the torso fits a bit tighter, making this feature less important with this particular jacket.
Oh, one more point here: Down jackets often look a bit blocky when you first buy them. Once you wear them in, the exterior fabric will soften and look more rounded and natural. So if your brand new down jacket sleeve — which was folded during shipping or sat on a hanger for 6 months — looks funny, your own best down jacket should start looking normal after you wear it for a few days.
Best Down Jacket: Durable Water Repellant (DWR) Shells
Some of the best down jackets have a chemical coating on the outer shell that repels water. These coatings are pretty much never fully waterproof, but they can shed a lot of water when they’re new. DWR coatings are desirable but not mandatory, especially if you pack a waterproof shell for layering for wet weather.
After a year or two, expect the DWR coating to wear off your best down jacket, after which you can often refresh it with some spray-on options.
Best Down Jacket: Hooded Down Jackets?
One of the toughest questions you’ll face is this: Should you choose a hooded down jacket? Hoods can offer extra warmth, of course, and they often look cool. If you’re going to layer your down jacket under a rain jacket or snow-ready shell that already has a hood, we usually recommend that you skip the hood. But still, hoods are great, especially if you’re going to be wearing your down jacket around town.
Best Down Jackets: Ultralight & Technical 2018
The REI Magma 850 uses a 50D Pertex ripstop shell with 850-fill treated goose down. The underarm baffles are smaller for better arm movement, and a drawcord hem helps seal out drafts. It includes an interior chest pocket plus two hand warmer pockets positioned to accommodate hip belts. Regular fit, about 10.8 ounces, fantastic price-to-value ratio. Learn more: Men’s | Women’s
Arc’teryx consistently produces awesome backcountry gear and the Cerium could make most anyone’s best down jacket shortlist. At 9.7 ounces, the Cerium LT uses an 850-fill power down in the torso and arms but uses a synthetic Coreloft insulation for the shoulder and collar, which is better for durability under a backpack as well as potential wetness from rain. The DWR shell is made of Airetica 10x20D ripstop nylon. The Cerium looks fantastic, has a trim fit, is very functional, and has impeccable design. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
The Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody is one of the most expensive down jackets going today, but it’s packed with features, starting with 800-fill goose down. It weighs just 9.6 ounces but Canada Goose packs in two hand pockets, two chest pockets, and an internal mesh stretch pocket. Plus it has a stretch Lycra hood edge, and the sleeves have thumbholes — which pretty much everyone loves. The 10D outer fabric is thin, so wear a protective shell in the woods. If you can afford it, choose a Hybridge Lite and don’t look back. Oh, one more thing: There’s a sweet camo version, too. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
The Ghost Whisperer is a long-term favorite for ultralight high-performance down jackets. It uses 800-fill Q.Shield hydrophobic treated down with smaller baffles that are nicely packed with down. The shell is made from a thin and ultralight Whisperer ripstop nylon. And the weight? It’s down to 7 ounces (8.75 ounces in XL — read our review). It is surprisingly warm. Because it’s been such a hit over the years, Mountain Hardwear makes it in many colors, usually with a glossy sheen. (You can sometimes find some less popular colors at clearance pricing.) The one downside is that Ghost Whisperer fabric is thin and can tear if you wear it in the woods without a shell — so pack a GearAid adhesive patch in the backcountry. Size down if you want a trimmer fit — we find that it runs slightly big in the body. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
The L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Sweater is one of the few down jackets that come in “tall” versions, too, which is great for those who have longer arms. Weighing in at about 10 ounces, it has 850-fill power water-resistant DownTek down and classic styling. It is slightly fitted and has an adjustable drawcord at the waist. Most importantly, if you want to size down to get a trimmer fit, the extra sleeve length is fantastic for those of us with long arms. One last point here: Comes with L.L.Bean’s legendary customer satisfaction guarantee. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
Weighing in at a mind-blowing 4.8 ounces, the Plasma 1000 is even lighter than the Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer. To reach this level of lightness, Montbell uses the best down and then makes some sacrifices. What sacrifices? The Plasma 1000 does not have pockets, nor does it have a drawcord to seal out drafts. The exterior fabric is super thin, too, so much so that Montbell warns that it requires special care. Despite the drawbacks, the Plasma has its fans. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s
This 800-fill goose down jacket includes a DWR water-resistant finish. The variegated channel construction keeps the down in place. It weighs just 9.5 ounces but it manages to include pockets and a drawcord at the bottom hem. Straight-forward awesomeness here, really, a long-time Patagonia fan favorite for years. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
The 8.4-ounce Quasar starts with 850-fill goose down wrapped up in a lightweight Pertex Quantum fabric with a DWR water-resistant coating. Marmot’s “Angle-Wing Movement” offers a great fit around the arms and shoulders for active sports. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
This brand new down jacket from Helly Hansen excels in ventilation. It has frontside-oriented pit zips along with underarm stretch softshell breathable panels. These features alone make for great heat-dumping capabilities when you’re working hard, but Helly Hansen takes ventilation to a whole new level: the company added slots — basically holes — into the lower back of the jacket that are covered by floppy overlapping insulated baffles. By having both the pit zips and the back slots, you can create airflow that lets your own water vapor escape and help you regulate your temperature on the go. So cool. The down insulation is 800 fill power and the 25D shell has a DWR coating. The technical design and sweet pockets come with a slight weight cost, though: The Odin Veor weighs in at 17 oz. Learn more: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
The Eddie Bauer MicroTherm StormDown Jacket is a bit of an anomaly: It’s a down jacket but it’s not really designed to be a “puffy” down jacket. It starts off a little flat looking, but once you put it on and wear it around, it begins to look fantastic. It is one of the thinner down jackets available, and the baffles have an interesting size and angle pattern, so if you’re unsure about the full-on traditional puffy look, the MicroTherm StormDown should make your shortlist. We were skeptical at first but became fans (see full review). It has a DWR finish, but more importantly it’s windproof, and has hydrophobic “StormDown.” Plus, it is one of the few jackets that have tall versions. A Tall XL fits a 6’3” 225-pound athletic guy snug in the torso and its arms are plenty long, but shorten to perfection once you wear it around, which lets the baffles expand more. It has stretch panels for decent movement around the shoulders, too. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
Feathered Friends uses super high-quality 900+ fill down, but what’s most great about Feathered Friends is that the company is an enthusiast craftsmanship-focused small business that manufactures in the U.S. And when it comes to the best down jackets, this is rare. The fit and finish is fantastic. The average weight of the Eos is 10.6 oz, but the overall construction and quality of down elevates the timeless Eos design to create a down jacket that is everything you need it to be and nothing you don’t. If you want to support a high-quality U.S. manufactured down-filled jacket, sleeping bag, or quilt, check out Feathered Friends. Plus, if you’re in the Seattle area, check out their store to see their jackets in person. Learn more: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
800-fill power goose down, 20D nylon fabric shell with a DWR finish. The North Face’s “Alpine Fit” is a bit more athletic and it’s designed for vertical movement. Hidden hem cinch cord. Average weight 11 ounces. If you’re a fan of pockets (we are) note the handy vertical chest pocket. Learn more: Men’s | Women’s
Mammut makes a lot of high-quality, technical alpine gear, and the Broad Peak jacket is our favorite for its overall design. It uses 850 fill power goose down (10% feathers), a water repellant outer shell, a chest pocket, and hand pockets situated higher than usual for accessibility while wearing a backpack or climbing harness. It has a trim, athletic fit. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded
Best Down Jackets: Lightweight & Versatile 2018
Arc’teryx Thorium is a lot like the Cerium but it uses 40D mini-ripstop nylon with a DWR finish and 750-fill goose down in the torso — while also using synthetic Coreloft insulation in the collar and shoulders. Get the Thorium instead of ultralight Cerium if you want the slightly tougher 40D fabric and bomber zipper — seriously, we love this zipper. Arc’teryx says the fit is regular, but we find it slightly trimmer than most regular fit down jackets, making it great for most everyone. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
You can’t go wrong with any Patagonia down jacket or layer, but the Patagonia Down Sweater has 800-fill goose down with 20 x 30D recycled polyester ripstop fabric with a DWR finish. It’s solid, lightweight and dependable, and it includes an interior chest pocket and drawcord waist. The regular weighs about 13.1 ounces. Nothing fancy about the regular-fit looks, but it’s altogether excellent in function and craftsmanship. Again, it’s another long-time Patagonia fan favorite. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
The StretchDown uses a welded channel construction instead of stitched thread to create the baffles. The result is a down jacket that stretches, giving you better range of motion during activities. The downside is that it weighs in at just over 1 pound — compared to most fleece and soft-shell jackets it is still pretty light. The 750 fill power Q.Shield down is treated. The fit is standard and Mountain Hardwear says it’s aimed at the ski and snowboard crowd. Mountain Hardwear makes a few versions, including the StretchDown RS, which is a bit lighter at 13 ounces. The “RS” stands for the 15D Ghost Lite Ripstop fabric body, which is more tear resistant but also less stretchy. The RS also has a trimmer fit. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the StretchDown DS with the new baffle design and even better “dynamic stretch.” Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
Uses a Pertex Microlight fabric with a DWR coating and 750-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic European goose down insulation. A size large weighs about 13 ounces. Aside from the moisture resistance and excellent overall quality, the Microlight’s best feature is its extra slim and stylish design. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
If you want a lightweight down jacket that doesn’t look like a down jacket, the KUHL Spyfire is for you. It’s decidedly stylish and seems to look great on most everyone . . . but it is built to handle more outdoor adventure than you might think. For instance, the soft shell reinforced shoulders are strong enough to let you carry skis or equipment with sharp edges. The Spyfire is water-resistant, windproof, and uses 800-fill goose down. If you want a down jacket that can transition from snowshoeing in the woods to hanging out in a mountain town, it’s hard to go wrong with the KUHL Spyfire Down Jacket. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
While the MicroTherm version above is thinner, the Downlight StormDown Jacket has a more classic down baffle design for a bit more puff. It has a tall version, too. The fit is a classic universal fit, which means there will be more room around the torso — but it has a drawcord. DWR finish plus 800 fill StormDown. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
This 650-fill-power puffy uses a 80/20 down/feather blend but the 20-denier nylon-taffeta shell is good at keeping the down/feather blend inside the baffles. (Basically, “leaking feathers” is a problem with most inexpensive down jackets, but the North Port leaks hardly at all.) The fit is regular, and it has a bottom drawcord for keeping out drafts. An XL weighs just 11.6 ounces. There is nothing is truly outstanding about this down jacket, but everything is surprisingly good — especially the can’t-go-wrong entry-level down jacket price point (see full review). Learn more: Men’s | Women’s
This 650-fill goose down jacket packs into its own pocket, has a timeless design and a handy chest pocket. It comes in at about 13 ounces, and OR makes it in a variety of excellent colors. The big win here is the price-to-value ratio — it’s spot on. OR doesn’t make a women’s version, though — try the OR hooded Verismo instead. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded
Best Down Jackets: Heavyweight 2018
This technical mountaineering jacket boasts 800 fill-power goose down and uses a combination of lightweight and water-resistant fabrics. If you fear the cold and want hard-core warmth, the Neutrino Endurance is for you. The mid-level pricing for this jacket is great, too. Learn more: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
If you’re looking for a down jacket that doesn’t look like everyone else’s puffy, the KUHL Firestorm is for you. The outdoor/mountain style factor is through the roof but the Firestorm doesn’t sacrifice on performance, either. KUHL combines multiple fabrics with a DWR finish, including a two-layer wool overlay at the front and top of the sleeves. It’s packed with 800-fill goose down. The main zipper and front zippers are water resistant. You get two chest pockets, an interior pocket, hand warmer pockets, plus inside stow pockets for gear like your goggles. The thumb holes in the sleeves are sometimes handy, too. The large is 23.7 ounces, which isn’t the lightest in this category, but you choose the Firestorm for the style and functional durability. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded
There is a lot to appreciate about the Lightline, starting with the reasonable price. It’s a bit heavier than some lighter down coats, but it’s packed with 675 fill-power duck down. It boasts a windproof and water-resistant Drilite shell. It straddles the line between a down parka that can handle challenging environments with a price and style that works for casual use, too. Velcro cuffs, adjustable hem, and get this: It has a fully-adjustable zip-off hood. Men’s (with zip-off hood) | Women’s (with zip-off hood)
The Marmot Guides Down Hoody uses 700 fill power down with Marmot’s hydrophobic Down Defender coating and a DWR coating on the nylon shell. Zippered hand warmer pockets, chest pocket, interior pockets, and adjustable Velcro cuffs. You get an elastic drawcord at the hem, as well as Marmot’s “Angle-Wing Movement” design, which gives you plenty of mobility around your arms and shoulders. It’s a classic overall design, built with Marmot excellence. Learn More: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
The OR Floodlight is waterproof, windproof, breathable, and fully seam-taped . . . and it uses 800 fill power goose down. Hook/loop cuffs, elastic drawcord hem, and chest pocket. A lot of greatness packed into this one — especially if you’re expecting big wet snowflakes. Hooded only! Learn more: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
At first glance, the Mirage Parka is just another well-constructed down coat . . . until you realize that it’s very light — starting at about 12.8 ounces. It uses 900 fill power down, has a DWR treatment, and it features drawcord at the hem that you can adjust with your hands inside the hand warmer pockets. Plus it has two internal stuff pockets. (And we like pockets.) Learn more: Men’s Hooded
The price-to-value ratio of this classic down jacket is hard to beat. It uses 700-fill goose down and a classic design. It has a cinch-cord at the hem plus Velcro adjustable cuffs for sealing out drafts. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s
This waterproof down jacket from REI is definitely more of a coat or parka than a lightweight down jacket. Its best feature is the 2-layer waterproof outer shell, but the massive pits zips are awesome and let you easily dump excess heat while active. The Stormhenge uses high-quality 850-fill power goose down, and the fit and finish compete well against jackets that cost twice as much. In fact, the price-to-value ratio of the REI Co-op Stormhenge 850 Down Jacket is fantastic. It runs just a bit big, which is great for multiple layers, but if you want a slimmer fit you can throw on over any shirt, size down. Learn more: Men’s Hooded | Women’s Hooded
Best Down Jacket for Massive Activity
On one final note, if you’re into winter and cool-weather sports where you’re going to be so active that you either sweat or release gobs of water vapor, a real down jacket probably isn’t the best jacket for you — even though the new Helly Hansen Odin Veor (#9) is made for ventilation. No, if you’re super active and tend to sweat easily under exertion, just get the Patagonia Nano-Air Insulated Hooded Jacket.
It’s not down, but it’s lightweight, water-resistant, and boasts 4-way stretch. Hardcore hikers, skiers, and active adventurers love it. Skiers and snowboarders even wear the stretchy hood underneath their helmets for extra warmth. It’s a bit spendy, sure, and it doesn’t look as a great as a down jacket, but it’s a can’t-go-wrong synthetic layer that should last years. Learn more: Men’s | Men’s Hooded | Women’s | Women’s Hooded